Friday 5: Some of the better books I’ve read lately…

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I’ve had a good round of books as of late! Here you go…

I Let You Go
by Clare Mackintosh 
(fiction) – worth a read

i-let-you-go

I am guessing that I found this book on Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Unputdownable list. On my copy from the library, a quote from The Girl on the Train author Paula Hawkins indicates that this novel has a “killer twist”.

I was drawn to this book, of course, by the blue cover. {I tend to be!} I can agree with Hawkins that there was a twist to this book; but I don’t think it is where you are expecting. While there is a bit of twist at the end; I think the real twist is in the middle. You will be questioning everything you read in the pages prior! For this reason, I don’t think it can ever be made into a movie. Still, I loved reading about the Welsh coast, which would be a beautiful setting in a film.

Truthfully, I liked this book more than The Girl on the TrainI would classify it as “unputdownable”, too. While it did take me about a week to read it, I read the last 60% of the book in one day.

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The High Mountains of Portugal
by Yann Martel
 (fiction, audiobook) – on the fence

This book was on my list for two reasons:

1) I read Yann Martel’s Life of Pi years ago and loved it and

2) we are considering a trip to Portugal this fall.

I am not sure why I chose the audiobook version of this novel; but I am thinking I may have enjoyed this a bit more if I read the hard copy. I do remember having a hard time getting into Martel’s Life of Pi, but that by the end it became one of my favorite books! The High Mountains of Portugal also took me a while to get into, but I think part of that may have been because of the reader’s voice.

Funny, though, I thought the reader’s voice was quite perfect for this book – almost too perfect. The Portuguese phrases and place names seemed to be so perfectly pronounced, that I had a hard time picturing them in my head. You know how sometimes when you read a language that you don’t know on paper that you can get the general gist because there may be similar spelling or words to a language you already know? I wanted that.

I found my mind wandering during much of the audiobook, but kept up with most of it. This novel covers three inter-related tales. However, I think the symbolism is so profound (much like Life of Pi), that I just might need the Cliff notes. Much of it was over my head. (And the fact that I wasn’t listening carefully the entire time.)

For the record, this is one of the several books that I’ve been reading as of late that mentions Agatha Christie novels, three of which are in this post! (The other is Behind Closed Doors.) Truth be told, I’ve never read a book by this famed author. Maybe this is a sign I should?!

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Food, Health and Happiness:
115 On-Point Recipes for Great Meals and a Better Life

by Oprah Winfrey
 (cookbook) – worth a read

I learned of this cookbook from Biz at My Bizzy Kitchen. Because of the recent soup craze in our household, Biz had me when she said “I was thrilled that the first 19 recipes are soup recipes!” Not only that, but Biz and I also have in common the tendency to read cookbooks like novels. Plus, Oprah. So this recommendation was a no-brainer.

This cookbook really does read like a novel! Oprah has always shared her struggles with food; but in this book she dispenses the wisdom she has learned through the years and I love the message – real food with people you love.

There are several recipes in this book that I will realistically never make. But I did pull out a few that I will. {Yes, they are soups!} And one of the great food tips I got from Oprah in this book – using (Sabatino brand) truffle zest and truffle salt! Rob and I have bought truffle oil in the past – a very expensive one we didn’t use very often and ended up throwing out and a cheaper one that had a taste of kerosene on the finish. Salt and zest makes much more sense.

I’ve already had some decadent truffle scrambled eggs in the morning with this little hint of flavor and no added calories. Indulgent!

~

Rules of Civility
by Amor Towles
 (fiction) – must read

This book was also on MMD’s Unputdownable list. And here is another book that took me a week to read, but the last 60% was in just one day! This book takes place over the course of one year – 1938. I wasn’t sure how into it I was at the beginning, but there are so many messages here. I learned, too, that while I shy away from historical novels sometimes, I do like books set in this era. I wanted a word to describe it, so I looked up a few things and realized the “era” that I enjoy is of a much wider range than I had expected. Apparently, I need to brush up on my history!

  • The Gilded Age (1870-1900) – Mark Twain described the late 19th century as the Guilded Age, or as “glittering on the surface but corrupt underneath.” I thought this described the 1930s, but apparently I was wrong…
  • Midnight in Paris – This film takes place in Paris in the 20s. Parts of this book reminded me of this this movie – all of the artists and such.
  • Prohibition (1920-1933) – All the gin-drinking in this novel had me curious about when Prohibition ended. In fact, I thought it lasted just a few years. But 13 years?! I should have remembered this from all of the St. Paul Gangster Tours I’ve been. (The Volstead Act was signed in St. Paul.)
  • The Great Depression (1929 – 1939) – The protaganist in this story acts and speaks as if The Great Depression is over, without actually saying so. This may be because it 1938 was the tail end and such an economic crisis spanned the globe. (Did some of this crisis have to do with Prohibition, I wonder?!)
  • World War II (1939-1945) – Looking up all of these dates put these things in to perspective for me and gave me a bit of a time line.

I really like that this book was set over the course of one year. There is a whole chapter that takes place on birthday in 1938. Oddly enough, it had me thinking about my maternal grandfather. Truth be told, all of my grandparents would have been alive during this time. However, my grandpa shared my birth month and it got me thinking that he would have been 24 at the time. Was his life similar or extremely different since he didn’t live in Manhattan?

It’s times like these that I wish I would have had the maturity and foresight to ask all of my grandparents about their lives during those times before their passing. Why is it now that I find it more fascinating?

By the end of this book, I realized I had to finally start watching the Amazon series Z: The Beginning of Everything. Zelda Fitzgerald was one of my favorite “characters” in Midnight in Paris. I wanted to see more of her. I have no idea if either adaptation is a true account of what F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife was like; but I find it entertaining nonetheless.

Last piece of note: This is one of the books I’ve read recently that mentions Agatha Christie novels!

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my grandmother asked me to tell you she’s sorry
by Fredrik Backman (fiction) – worth a read 

I adored Backman’s A Man Called Ove; but I listened to the audiobook. This was the first of his books that I read with my eyes. 🙂 This is a moving story about the relationship of an “almost-eight-year-old” and her grandmother. The grandmother tells her granddaughter some glorious fairy tales… that sometimes get blurred with reality.

For instance, you see that dog on the cover of the book? They feed this animal chocolate – and mostly sweets all of the time. While reading, I had to google this book and figure out why in the world they would do such a thing. I was so worried the dog would die! But I came across this interview with the author. I guess he’s been asked this question a lot… {Insert angry emails here!}

We, as readers, were meant to use our imaginations for this part because the animal is supposed to be a wurse. But the book’s description of a wurse did not remind me of a dog at all. That, in conjunction with the misleading photo on the front of the book and the fact that none of the other imaginary parts of the fairy tales ended up in reality made me confused. Wouldn’t you be confused by this passage?

Other than that silliness, I really did enjoy this book. In the end, you’ll understand the reason for the fairy tales and how they take shape (just not as literally as the wurse) in reality. It’s worth the read. {Even if you have to get confused about wurses!} Oh… wait. One more thing. Agatha Christie is mentioned in this book, too. I think this is a sign…

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If you’ve read Agatha Christie, which book is your favorite?

Which book would tell someone to read first?

Cheers~
Carrie

5 for Friday: St. Patrick’s Day Edition!

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Taking a break from the books this week since it’s St. Paddy’s Day! I’m not Irish, but sometimes I celebrate like I am. 🙂

Here are 5 of my St. Paddy’s Day Faves:

  1. Food:

    • Creamy Reuben Soup – I made this for the first time on Wednesday. My husband devoured nearly 3 bowls of it! (For the record, I loved it, too.) Okay, so Reubens are not technically Irish, but the corned beef and sauerkraut (cabbage), makes me feel like Reubens kind of are…  Besides, a local bar always makes a version that Rob always dreams of this time of year. I wanted to see if I could do it justice. The verdict? This one might be better. Make it no! Side Note: I never really had a Reuben sandwich until I met Rob. He and his parents always ordered them when we ate out!
    • Corned Beef and Cabbage – Truth be told, this is not a traditional Irish dish either! It’s more Irish-American. This was our go-to recipe every year, a few years back. I don’t think I’ll be making it again, though. The Soup has won out for eternity.
    • Irish Bread – I think Irish Soda Bread might be Irish-American, too. I don’t remember ever having that when I was in Ireland.I do miss their brown bread, though! Maybe I’ll have to try whip up a batch of that next year. Anyone have a fave recipe?
  2. Drinks:

    • Guinness – People think that Guinness is such a heavy beer because it is dark and maybe also because of the foamy head. While it may be heavier than the lager you are drinking, Guinness really isn’t as think or full-bodied as you may think it is. There are several stouts that have much more flavor and richness than Guinness. So give it a try! Sometimes, I’ll drink a Guinness when I want something lighter – it has so fewer calories than many other beers! Plus, there are so many concoctions you can make, including the Black Velvet in this post.
    • Whiskey – I’m not much of a whiskey drinker, but my husband and friend Jen tend to like Johnny Jump Ups (a shot of whiskey in cider). But we did do a tasting while in Ireland. So much fun!
    • Irish Sangria – Want something a little nontraditional and fit for the beautiful weather we are supposed to have this weekend? Try the Irish Sangria in my Sangria post!
  3. Entertainment:

    • Irish Music – You can’t easily find trad in the U.S. but when you do, especially on this special day, it’s wonderful. We love the music at St. Paul’s FREE Irish Fair every August. And we go to see the non-traditional, but always fun Gaelic Storm whenever they are in town!
  4. Memories:

    • My friend Jen and I started a tradition when we backpacked Europe after college to find an Irish Pub in every country. My husband and I carry on this tradition to this day whenever we travel like we did here, here, herehere, here and here.
    • Almost two of those 10 weeks backpacking in Europe backpacking were spent in Ireland. I was most at peace in Dingle. I still remember that day and the calm I felt on the boat while in search of a the view of Fungie the dolphin. Although, hanging with my friend Colm in Dublin and Dundalk was wicked fun!
    • Then we took a family trip to Ireland with Rob’s parents in 2012. Here’s a link to my last post about that wonderful trip. If you scroll down to the bottom of that post, you’ve got a link to all of my posts about that trip on the bottom. We were chauffeured around The Isle by Ray with Walk with Me and made some friends with locals in Dublin. {Hi Ross!} We do need to plan a trip back. {Sigh.}| I haven’t seen the south yet!
  5. Lastly:

    • Our very own Shamrock:

 

Happy St. Paddy’s Day!

What is your favorite thing about this holiday?

Cheers~
Carrie

5 for Friday: Books I’ve Read (Mostly Cookbooks!)

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Yup, it’s that time of the week… 5 more books I’ve read/listened to lately!

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (audio)
by Mark Haddon (fiction) – must listen/read

curious-incident

I don’t know if I ever shared the story of how Rob and I met, but there are two short answers – it was in a bar and because of an autistic boy. Sound strange? Well, you’ll have to ask me about it some time. In any case, this book was wonderfully written from the viewpoint of an autistic boy. I’ve had this book on my to-read list on GoodReads for a while.

One day, I received a link to a blog post in my inbox. I recognized the title, not even knowing what the book was about at that time. When the last line of her post read, ” You can purchase tickets online at the Hennepin Theatre Trust and don’t forget the rush seats available for students and teachers!” I immediately thought of my friend Jen, who not only works in education, but also was one of the people that worked with the autistic boy who brought Rob and I together (in a roundabout way).

She said, “I’d love to go. Aren’t you the one who gave me that book to read?”

“No.”

“Did you recommend I read it a long time ago?”

“No, I’d only heard about it in the last year or so.”

She was almost certain that it was me. The thing is… This book was published in 2003, the year Rob and I met.

Enough about that little background. In the end, we did go to the play with rush tickets. It was so well-done and I walked out of the theater with tears streaming down my face. It is such a heartfelt story.

I still wanted to read the book, but also found it on a list recommended books to experienced on audio. I now know why… The narrator is absolutely fantastic and I felt totally captivated during my commutes. {I confess that my mind can wander if an audiobook doesn’t have me hooked!} Of course, I knew the ending, but I still found myself crying while driving home as the story was wrapping up. I highly recommend this story – in any form – to anyone.

~

Off the Menu: Staff Meals from America’s Top Restaurants
by Marissa Guggiana
 (cookbook) – skip

off-the-menu

By now, you know that I like to read cookbooks like novels. I loved the premise of the book’s title; but truth be told, after the intro, I ended up just flipping through the recipes. It’s still a great book, but from a recipe standpoint, I personally only felt compelled to make two of the recipes myself: Tuscan Kale Salad and a Cheddar Ale Soup. But I haven’t even done that.

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Commonwealth
by Ann Patchett
 (fiction) – on the fence

commonwealth

This is my first time reading any of Patchett’s books, other than her short memoir/advice on writing. {I know, where have I been all these years?!} She is now a quite famous author with over a dozen books to her name.

I had a bit of a time getting into this book at the beginning and had trouble keeping some of the cast of characters straight… but then things changed and I became engrossed! The entanglement of lives and stories was intriguing; but I felt there was no real climax. But then again, I’m not sure that one would have been appropriate… Or maybe it was that there was a climax, but it was talked about in the past tense over different points in the book, if that makes any sense. I didn’t really care for the ending because it was so gradual and not really finite. However, I don’t care for book endings in general. It is a rare case when I do!

This is a book in wich I liked in the middle, but not really the beginning or end, although both were necessary. This is also the second book I read this year that included the difficulties of aging. That stuff is always tough for me.

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300 Sensational Soups
by Carla Snyder & Meredith Deeds
 (cookbook) – on the fence

300-soups

We’ve really been into soup lately, but this book overwhelmed me. I started by flagging some of the recipes I wanted to try, but there were too many! I ended up deciding to thumb through the rest and put it on my wishlist over at PaperbackSwap.com to obtain my own copy.

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5 Ingredients or Less Slow Cooker Cookbook
by Stephanie O’Dea (cookbook) – worth a read 

5-ingredients

Yes, I’ve been checking out a lot of cookbooks lately! I’ve followed O’Dea’s Year of Slow Cooking Blog because I’m always looking for easy meals. I love the fact that this book makes it even easier – settling for 5 ingredients or less. What I also loved about this book, as she notes in her introduction, that she refrains from making one of those ingredients a cream-based soup. She says that there are already so many slow cooker recipes with cream-of-X soups online and in vintage cookbooks. For the most part, O’Dea sticks with real food, which is what I like to see!

It’s funny, though, most of the recipes I flagged were for me {read: chicken, black beans, etc.}, not for Rob!

~

Since I’ve only read one, tell me, what’s your favorite Ann Patchett novel?

Cheers~
Carrie

WW: The Best Bottle of Wine Under $10

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Happy Wine Wednesday!

It’s been a while…

I used to conduct in-home wine tastings where the wines were listed between $12 and $25, but were valued at much higher. For those ten years peddling marketing wine, I developed a taste for those wines and my palate became a little picky. I couldn’t drink that two three-buck chuck stuff. Blech.

My two very favorite wines run about $25 – $40; but we hardly ever buy them. And it’s not just because of the price that they are my favorite wines; they just happen to be! Most wines in that price range, I can’t tell the difference. A wine has to wow me and it has to be a special occasion for me to spend that much.

Truly, I found that my sweet spot for a great-tasting wine is in the $15 – $20 range. The funny thing is that is still a little too high in my world these days. Part of it has to do that since I quit that wine gig, I no longer have two jobs, nor have that discount. But I also save diligently for travel each year. That coupled with savings for other things such as health expenses and home improvement (yes, we’ll finally get that deck fixed/replaced this year!), makes the opportunity to experiment with new wines a little challenging. I don’t want to open a bottle and be disappointed at this point.

But we do have a tried and true bottle of wine under $10 that never fails us:

columbia-crest-grand-estates

The Columbia Crest Grand Estates {it must be Grand Estates version!} Cabernet Sauvignon from Columbia Valley Washington clocks in at only $6.99/bottle at our local Costco. ($7.47 at Total Wine). I tend to prefer smaller, lesser-known wineries and vineyards; but this mass-produce wine is tried and true. The vintage, in my opinion, doesn’t matter because it always delivers. That being said Wine Spectator gave the 2014 vintage 91 points. I guess I’m not alone in this opinion!

If you like a bold red that isn’t too heavy or boozy tasting, but full of fruit flavor that is not reminiscent of that fake sweetness I often get from restaurant house wines. I haven’t done a true study of this wine were we used to sit down sniff, swirl taste and describe the aroma, body and taste. Maybe I’ll do that in the future now that I’ve thought of it. Instead, I’ve just enjoyed each sip, even knowing that this bottle of wine cost me about half of what most glasses of wine cost in a nice wine bar or restaurant.

We have made it our house wine. 

~

My aunt recently sent me a link to an article about award wining wines $10 and under. In case that link doesn’t work, here are the wines mentioned.

Winning wines at $10 and under
San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition — Best of Class and Double Gold winners $10 and under:
Sauvignon blanc: 2015 Bogle, $10; 2015 Darkhorse, $9.99 — both double gold.
Chardonnay: McMannis Family Vineyards 2015, $10; 2015 ForestVille, $6.99 — both best of class.
Pinot Gris: 2015 Trinity Oaks, $9 — best of class.White blend: 2015 Menage a Trois, $10 — best of class.Pinot Noir: 2015 Three Thieves, $7.99 and 2014 Bubo, $8.99 — both best of class; Smoking Loon, $8.99 — double gold.
Zinfandel: Sutter Home NV, $6.Merlot: Round Hill 2014, $9; Coast 2014, $9; Backhouse 2015, $10 — all double gold.
Cabernet Sauvignon: 2015 Silver Creek, $9.99 — best of class; California Dream 2015, $5.98 and Sutter Home NV, $6; and Trader Moon 2015, $5.99 — all double gold.
Red Dessert Wine: Barefoot Sangria NV, $6.99, and Merritt Estate (N.Y.) Bella Rosa NV — both double gold.

Has anyone had the Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cab or any of the wines on this list?

Thoughts?

Cheers~
Carrie

Skinnytaste Fast and Slow – Recipes I’ve Tried

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If you read any of my book posts, you may have learned that after checking out the cookbook Skinnytaste Fast and Slow from the library and reading it (mostly out loud to my husband!) on the way to Green Bay, I decided to buy for myself and give it as Christmas gifts.

I love and follow the Skinnytaste blog, as well as covet some favorites from her site, such as this Zucchini Lasagna and for me, this Crockpot Turkey White Bean Pumpkin Chili.

This post was inspired by Kat of Tenaciously Yours who asked if anyone got this cookbook yet. {She does a Friday Food Roundup!, which I love and have considered doing something similar myself.} Still, I didn’t have a quick and easy answer. We are still working our way around the Skinnytaste Fast and Slow cookbook; but I thought I’d post what I think thus far.

I apologize for the lack of pictures in this post! I hadn’t intended to write this post while I was cooking up…

skinnytaste-fast-slow

What I like about this cookbook:

  • I’ve learned that I’m attracted to books with blue covers. So there you have it.
  • There are so many things that I’m dying to make! It’s one of the reasons I decided to purchase the cookbook. I was flagging so many pages in my borrowed library copy!
  • The recipes are meant to get a meal on the table easily any night of the week be it fast (30 minutes or less) or slow (in a slow cooker).
  • For many of the slow cooker recipes, she’ll give hints on how to accommodate it to the stove top. I forgot about this and needed the reminder!
  • There is a whole section titled “One-Bowl Meals”. You know how I love my bowls!
  • It’s a healthy cookbook – a lot of recipes are lightened up, but while using real food.

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What I’ve made so far:

  • Slow Cooker Hamburger Stroganoff – My husband prefers ground beef stroganoff over chunks of beef. He liked this recipe more than I did. I think my MIL’s is better and would come to better pretty easily. I’ll have to get that recipe from her.
  • Egg Roll Bowls – I gave these a shot since the recipe only made two servings – perfect for Rob and me! Surprisingly, they didn’t have much flavor. 😦 I used my leftover ingredients to make these soups.
  • Slow Cooker Beef Ragu with Paparadelle – My husband was hesitant on thins one because he is not a fan of flank steak; but it falls apart so tenderly in the slow cooker! That being said, the flank steak was surprisingly pricey, even at Aldi. He also seemed to enjoy this more than I did.
  • Slow Cooker Lasgana Soup – Okay, so I didn’t really make this one. I came really close. But in the end, I already had a similar stovetop recipe I really like and made that one instead.
  • Slow Cooker Creamy Tomato Soup – This book is supposed to include what I would consider easy meals – either fast (under 30 minutes) or slow (in a slow cooker); but I found this recipe to be very labor intensive! I did a lot of prep and cooking before putting it into the slow cooker, then pureeing the contents afterward, then creating the creamy sauce on the stove to add to the soup. All that for a result that wasn’t very flavorful {despite the fresh basil!} nor satisfying. Not worth the hassle. We are still on our quest for that perfect-go-to make-at-home tomato soup. We have yet to find it. But I think I’ve perfected the grilled cheese in the meantime!

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What I’ve learned:

  • I thought using the Crockpot would be a great thing to have going now that I have a commute 3 days a week. However, I’m gone from the house for 10 hours on those days. There are not many 10-hour + crockpot recipes. Instead, I found myself using the slow cooker on the days I work from home! Maybe it’s time for an Instant Pot. She’s got some recipes that’ll work for that, too! {I have two friends who each just got one. I’ll wait for their reviews and then put one on my wishlist!}

~

Here are just a few more recipes from this cookbook that I want to make:

  • Banana Almond Smoothie Bowl – I’ve done smoothies, but never a smoothie bowl. This one has all the right yums. I want it on a hot day this summer, after a run.
  • Savory Quinoa Breakfast Bowls – Why didn’t I think of this one? Softboiled egg, quinoa, spinach, tomato, avocado? DONE.
  • Slow Cooker Chicken Taco Chili – I’ve made this Mexican Chicken Stew before. Perhaps similar?  You really can’t go wrong with anything Mexican, nor anything chili, though…
  • Kale Caesar and Grilled Chicken Bowls – This recipe serves 4. It’s hard to justify a 4-serving salad when Rob is allergic to chicken. I’ll just have to halve it or make it for the girls for our monthly dinner night in some time!
  • Chicken and Couscous Bowls with Piri Piri – I don’t think I’ve made couscous since college, when I ate it ALL.THE.TIME. Couscous was my ramen. Plus it helped me get my veg in – I usually sauteed some mushrooms and zucchini and mixed them in. But what intrigues me most about this recipe is making my own Piri Piri sauce, which I haven’t had since we’ve been to Australia.
  • Shrimp and Artichoke Quinoa Bowls – This dish is for me only since Rob can’t eat shrimp. But it makes 5 servings and I hate reheating shrimp. Maybe I’ll keep the leftover shrimp cold and just serve it on top after reheating. This might be another good one for the girls.
  • Sunny-Side-Up Egg and Avocado Rice Bowls – Enough Said.
  • Slow Cooker Chicken Burrito Bowls – I’ve been meaning to make some version of this for some time. I’ve got about 1001 recipes pinned.
  • Some of the spiralized meals –  I’ve made zoodles {zucchini noodles} before, but with a julienne peeler, which can be a bit labor intensive. I would love to get a spiralizer, but don’t want to spend the money if it’s not going to be a good one. I want it to be soooo easy that I want to spiralize everything! I was just about to request recommendations, when I realized that there are recommendations for two durable ones in the cookbook {Inspiralizer or Paderno}! Thanks, blog post for forcing me to re-read! Anyone have a preference?
  • Asiago-Crusted Chicken Breast – Why not?
  • Santa Fe Turkey Egg Rolls with Avocado Ranch Sauce – Is it weird that Santa Fe is on my travel bucket list? I have no idea if this type of food is truly indicative of the location, but it looks good anyway.
  • Fork and Knife Cheeseburgers – You would never know unless you read the recipe that the burger in this beautiful photo is between two portobello mushroom caps. Why? She sprinkled the top “bun” with sesame seeds!
  • Perfect Medium-Rare Roast Beef in the Slow Cooker – They say that a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, right? Well, I think I’ve already got his heart. So maybe it’s just that I’ve never made anything like this before.
  • Slow Cooker Pernil – I’ve just always been curious about this dish.
  • Baked Fish and Chips – I think I should make this for the girls. We’ve all been known to order the fried version out on occasion!
  • Grilled Vegetable Caprese Salad – Summer, here I come!
  • Greek Panzanella Salad – Now I know how to make that soft, boring pita bread taste good – you grill it first!
  • Zucchini “Meatballs” – I’m always curious of vegetarian spins on meat {I love a good black bean burger!} and this one sounds up my alley.
  • Slow Cooker Loaded “Baked” Sweet Potatoes – This one is two-fold: 1) I’ve heard baked potatoes are great in the slow cooker, 2) I am not a huge fan of sweet potatoes; but I feel I could enjoy these with all the Latin toppings!
  • Slow Cooker Chana Masala – I made chana masala on my own once, but didn’t get the method down. 😦 My favorite version is a single-serving frozen meal at Trader Joe’s. Still would like to make the real deal on my own.
  • Burnt Broccoli – Yeah – I’ve been eating broccoli for almost two years now. CRAZY.
  • Spaghetti Squash with Garlic and Oil – Yes… a great side dish to get some veg in… I always forget how much I love SS until I eat it again!

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In sum, what I can tell you is that I still have a LOT of recipes I’d like to try out of this cookbook. But, of the ones I’ve made, I just haven’t found any I LOVE yet. Would you like me, to perhaps, give you another update in the future? Tell you when I do find a keeper?

What recipe from this list would you most like to try?

 

Cheers~
Carrie

Sophie & Shamrock Saturday

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Sophie & Shamrock Saturday

It’s been a while since I’ve posted about the pooches. But this time of year, there is a lot of hibernating going on…

I got the pooches these little dog beds around the holidays because they were on sale for around $10. Rob said they were too small. Technically, he was right. But the larger sizes started at $25/each. And I figured when they curl up into their little sleeping-dog-crescent-shapes…

It  took a long time to try to get Sham to get into his little bed. Training treats didn’t even really work. Until one day, I put the bed under my desk while I was working:

shamrock-bed-3He still loves the butterfly pillows his Auntie Sally gave them (pictured left), but now we’ve got little beds and pillows in the office, the living room and in the basement. Sham is a little protector (just ask Auntie Sally!) and needs to follow me nearly everywhere. He’ll have a place to sit no matter where I am… He might even fall asleep…

shamrock-bedMaybe one day, he’ll cover his eyes with his paws like The Jean does sometimes…

Happy Saturday!
Carrie

 

Friday 5: Books with Cool Covers & Strange Titles

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So it just works out this way… I have a few restos I’m sure my husband would like me to write-up, but I find books so much easier! No worries, I’ll get going back to those soon, hopefully… 😉

Here are 5 recent books I read… Some with cool covers, others with strange titles.

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things
by Jenny Lawson 
(non-fiction; well, mostly) – worth a read/listen

furiously-happy

I think that this book helps shed a bit of the stigma of mental illness. Lawson is hilariously candid about things her life circumstances and experiences dealing with depression and anxiety; but also illustrates her difficulties and is serious about that. She shares her own personal coping mechanisms; but also reiterates that everyone is different and not every strategy will work for everyone nor all the time.

I like her over-the-top stories and sense of humor; but don’t be easily offended! She eloquently compares mental illness to other better-known diseases to create a better understanding and help break the stigma. At first, I found the author’s up-speak to be a bit difficult to listen to on the audiobook; but later realized that there would be no one better to narrate it! These are her words, thoughts and experiences… thus her excitement, candor and compassion shines through in just the right places.

I thought the cover of this book was just cute… but then you find out why it’s the cover of this book!

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The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion:
Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts and Emotions
by Christopher K. Germer
 (non-fiction) – DNF

mindful-path

The author said that “This book will not be a lot of work.” I had to go back and look for the quote, because my memory thought he said, “This will not be hard. In fact, it’ll be easier than what you are doing now.” He did go on to state: “The hard work is actually behind you – fighting and resisting difficult feelings, blaming yourself for them and their causes.”

However, I did find this book to be difficult. Although I’m working on meditation a bit, I find quieting the mind very challenging. I had trouble with some of the exercises and felt overwhelmed… and I definitely wasn’t compassionate with myself about that! In any case, maybe it’s just not the right time for this book for me. This one might be better to purchase and work on little by little, rather than check it out from the library with the hopes of completing it when it’s due.

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The Fox From His Lair
by Elizabeth Cadell
 (fiction) – worth a read

the-fox-from-his-lair

Truth be told, I picked up this book because the story is set in Portugal. Rob and I are thinking of spending our international vacation there this year. I did a search for guidebooks on Portugal on my library’s website and this book was one of the results. I hadn’t even realized it was written in the 60s until I picked it up. It even had its old check-out card and pocket still fastened on the inside cover!fox-lairThis book is categorized as “romantic suspense fiction”. I didn’t choose it because of that descriptions and would have never considered it a romance novel until maybe the very end. There is just so much more to this story. I think it transcends time, too! I really enjoyed it, although I’m not sure where the title comes in to play. And although the setting is just background, I still enjoyed reading about a location I may soon visit. I also love the cover of this book!

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DIFFICULT WOMEN
by Roxane Gay (fiction, short stories) – worth a read

difficult-women

Although I am not a fan of the color pink, I just love this cover! Before I read the book, I read a review that the title was not quite fitting. I would have to agree. In this age of “nasty” women, I expected this book to be about women who may be considered difficult, in the sense that they are challenging the norm and making breakthroughs. I expected to be inspired, not having read anything really what this book was truly about.

Instead, it may be said that this is book is about women in difficult situations. It’s a collection of short stories about women. The writing is absolutely fantastic, though the stories are a bit disheartening and sad. I’d say it’s about women and abuse and twins and sex and baths and motherhood and Michigan. If there weren’t exactly parallels in the stories, there were certain elements that were similar.

I’m curious and looking forward to reading Gay’s other works.

 

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The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir About Writing and Life
by Ann Patchett
 (non-fiction) – worth a read (especially if you are thinking about writing)

getaway-car

I don’t have a Kindle or any type of e-reader, but I do have the Kindle app downloaded on my phone. I don’t like reading on my phone very much at all, but I having a short or less-involved story available on that app at all times in case I end up in a line or waiting room somewhere and haven’t a book with me!

I thought this was a short story written by Patchett; but instead it’s a bit of a memoir. It’s kind of funny to read this having never read any of her books before. {I’m now reading Commonwealth.} While I don’t exactly understand the butterflies on her cover, the getaway car is in reference to her attempt as a novelist to escape a life of waitressing. It’s full of sensible advice to those aspiring to write; but also gives a look into the life of a novelist.

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Do you choose books by their covers or titles?

What book do you think has had the best title or cover?

Cheers~
Carrie